71% Of Americans Believe The Founding Fathers Would Be Disappointed At The Way The Nation Has Turned Out

from the prodigal-nation dept

The last dozen years haven't been too kind to our country. A brief surge of patriotism followed the 9/11 attacks, but the Bush administration managed to channel that national pride (and a large dose of fear) into a series of regrettable laws, policies, government expansion and wars. The rough sketches of a homegrown surveillance state have been present for several decades but it took the chaos of a terrorist attack to bring it into sudden, sharp focus.

The current administration didn't improve matters, embracing and expanding the model of government surveillance and control put into operation by its predecessors. Throughout it all, whistleblowers have emerged, filling in the details of the shadowy operations operating behind the scenes, safely out of the public eye and for the most part, beyond accountability.

The latest round of leaks have solidified the state's image as an untrustworthy guardian of the nation's "security," a premise so flimsy its aims and activities are still mostly shrouded in government-enforced secrecy, aided and abetted by the executive orders of a compliant president.

It's little surprise that a majority of Americans believe the founding fathers would be disappointed by US 2.0 -- a country whose representatives have shown the willingness to sacrifice their constituents' freedoms for "safety," all without having the courtesy to discuss these "sacrifices" until absolutely forced to.

Seventy-one percent of Americans think the signers of the Declaration of Independence would be disappointed by the way the United States has turned out, a Gallup survey released Thursday shows.
The country hasn't been deemed "pleasing" to the founding fathers by a majority of Americans since 2001, when it briefly hit a high of 54%. Since then, it has slid to half that -- 27% -- over the last decade.

Interestingly, a person's opinion on what the founding fathers might think of the country has little bearing on their own particular pride in being an American.

As the United States celebrates Independence Day, most of its adult residents continue to say they are proud to be an American, including 57% who are extremely proud and 28% who are very proud. This high level of pride in being an American has varied only moderately over the past 12 years since the question was first asked, but has been lower since 2005 than it was in the years prior.

That seeming dichotomy is something our legislators should take a long, hard look at. A person's pride in their nationality is almost completely divorced from their respect for the government. This shouldn't be viewed as a license to continue screwing things up. After all, the American public's confidence rating for Congress is in danger of slipping into single digits.

No, the takeaway should be this: patriotism isn't tied to government activity. It never has been and it never will be. Crafting bad laws to make America "better" or "safer," as happened post-9/11, is nothing more than a hideous form of coattail riding. It's a way to exploit emotional surges in order to expand government power.

Being proud to be an American despite the actions of those in power is a great thing. Our government long ago ceased to be truly representative of the population, instead searching for expansions of power and engaging in willing servitude to a variety of corporations and special interests. The divide continues to grow. Our nation is two entities: the people and the state.

Our founding fathers would be displeased, but maybe they too would hold out hope that our country will correct the course set by the last two administrations. More disappointed than angry. And still optimistic.


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  • identicon
    FM Hilton, 15 Jul 2013 @ 3:35am

    Displeased?

    Our founding fathers would be more than displeased-they'd be righteously pissed off that all of their very hard work, and sacrifices went to hell in a hand basket.

    No, they'd be frothing at the mouth:

    "We gave you a perfectly fine Constitution-you had to go and break it! Some country this turned out to be!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Prashanth (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 5:21am

      Re: Displeased?

      Well, to be fair, Jefferson did predict having to replace the Constitution every 19 years. That hasn't happened de jure, but it could be argued de facto.

      Anyway, I realize that this article being on TechDirt would lead it to be interpreted as Americans disapproving of things like NSA spying, but given recent other polls showing the lack of widespread disapproval of that program and others that take away basic rights to speech, privacy, and such, does this poll really mean much in particular?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        RyanNerd (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 6:29am

        Re: Re: Displeased?

        It should be said that Jefferson did not have a hand in creating the Constitution (he was in France at the time).
        His position and argument was that the dead should not govern the living. Since the Constitution is a living document. Meaning that it can be amended and amendments can be replealed -- this argument by Jefferson is greatly diminished.
        Jefferson also said:
        I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Davey, 15 Jul 2013 @ 9:03am

          Re: Re: Re: Displeased?

          The ability to amend has become a tragic fantasy. In the current dysfunction there's no way healing amendments are going to be passed, because doing so depends on the sources of the failure, Congress and the legislatures, to destroy the oligarchy they themselves have created. Much of the problem lies with the Founders themselves and the cumbersome anti-government structures they created. They'd have good reason to be displeased, even disgusted. They'd also have good reason to be ashamed of themselves.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            btr1701 (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 11:55am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Displeased?

            > Much of the problem lies with the Founders
            > themselves and the cumbersome anti-government
            > structures they created. They'd also have good
            > reason to be ashamed of themselves.

            Not sure when it became shameful to distrust the government. You'd have to be a moron not to.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          btr1701 (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 11:53am

          Re: Re: Re: Displeased?

          > Since the Constitution is a living document.
          > Meaning that it can be amended and amendments
          > can be replealed

          Yes, if only they actually did that and amended it the proper way instead of the (much easier) method of having the Supreme Court 'interpret' words and phrases to mean the exact opposite of what they actually say in order to get around limitations on governmet power that all three branches find inconvenient.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 9:01am

        Re: Re: Displeased?

        does this poll really mean much in particular?


        I think it means that most citizens have realized that the government does not represent them or act with their best interests in mind.

        What the founding fathers intended was a government "of the people, by the people, for the people." That's not what we have.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2013 @ 4:10am

    i think 'disappointed' is an understatement! 'horrified' would be much closer to the mark! and when you think about it, it's all because one or two powerful people have turned things on their head and probably only for personal benefit and gain! the 'disappointment' part is they are being allowed to do it and get away with it!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    The Real Michael, 15 Jul 2013 @ 4:15am

    Funny, I don't recall being asked this question. Whenever they say "X% of Americans" from a narrow poll, they're being disingenuous at best. Who knows who was surveyed or if they tampered with the polling results.

    That said, yeah, it's rather obvious that the founding fathers of this country would be extremely outraged over what has happened to this country. (I mean do we really need a poll to validate it?) Heck, they went to war over a 3% tax. Of course England tried to disarm the colonists (read: gun control) so that she might subject the country to her authoritarian rule. Ironically, our founding fathers were considered traitors and terrorists. What does that tell you?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Pragmatic, 15 Jul 2013 @ 5:33am

      Re:

      Some rule is more authoritarian than others, but for the most part I agree with you. We've got a cold, hard choice between religious authoritarian rule or corporate authoritarian rule with a little welfare to soften the edges. It's not much of a choice, is it?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2013 @ 6:32am

      Re:

      Statistics do not require that every member of the population be polled. Also, you can see who was surveyed.

      http://www.gallup.com/file/poll/163364/Proud_to_be_an_American_130704.pdf

      Of course, if we're going to dive into conspiracies about tampered poll results, then there's no point, really.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        The Real Michael, 15 Jul 2013 @ 8:34am

        Re: Re:

        There are more than a few political and special interest groups who will use anything to further their agenda. It's no secret that polls are used to influence public opinion, therefore, logically, there's an interest in skewing the figures to portray a desired outcome. No 'conspiracy theory' necessary.

        Notice how they don't say "X% of 547 Americans who were polled" or something to that effect. Nope, it's the routine "X% of Americans" generalization. Chances are, you don't know a single person who participated in this poll and nor do I.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 10:23am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Notice how they don't say "X% of 547 Americans who were polled" or something to that effect.


          They don't headline that sort of thing because it is a meaningless and misleading factoid in isolation.

          What's important is not the number of people polled, but the margin of error in the poll (which takes the number of people polled, and other important characteristics, into account).

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        dennis deems (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 8:50am

        Re: Re:

        Results are based on telephone interviews conducted June 1-4, 2013 with a random sample of –1,529—adults, aged 18+, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia
        Have you ever worked as a telephone interviewer calling random people to conduct a survey? I have. By far the majority of people you call will decline to answer the survey. They will say they don't have time, or they aren't interested. So right off the bat, telephone surveys are limited to a sample not of the general population, but of those among the general population who A) answer the phone when a computer calls them, B) enjoy talking to strangers on the telephone, C) have time to take out of their day to talk to strangers on the telephone, and D) are interested in responding to a survey about a random topic.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          d, 15 Jul 2013 @ 9:09am

          Re: Re: Re:

          And yet they get election polling pretty right. How would you explain that?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            dennis deems (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 1:57pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            No explanation needed. In election surveys, the respondent is asked if they plan to vote, and how. Why would that distribution be affected by the selection requirement of willingness to answer a computer caller?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 9:05am

      Re:

      Whenever they say "X% of Americans" from a narrow poll, they're being disingenuous at best.


      Not true. Properly done, statistical sampling is very accurate and you can indeed get a very good estimate of a large population by polling a tiny percentage of it.

      If you have a problem with the methodology of this particular poll, that's one thing, but if you're saying statistical sampling itself is invalid, that's just incorrect.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 4:24am

    Well they do say children become their parents...

    ... and the US seems to be making a good go of topping the British Empire at its height for running rough-shod over everyone that gets in the way of amassing as much power and wealth as possible - be they foreign or domestic.

    I think the founders would say that the current state of the US looks eerily familiar...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2013 @ 4:33am

    I would not trust the list of proud Americans I mean would you say otherwise with the NSA listening in?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Bengie, 15 Jul 2013 @ 5:16am

      Re:

      Proud of your heritage is not the same as being proud of your current government.

      I'm proud to be an USA citizen, but am sickens by the deplorable abuses our government does daily.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Davey, 15 Jul 2013 @ 9:14am

        Re: Re:

        But the US government is the US. That's the only thing that defines it. When you cross the border into Canada or Mexico, the only thing that changes is the government, which drew the boundaries, made the flags, wrote the laws.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 15 Jul 2013 @ 4:51am

    most of its adult residents continue to say they are proud to be an American

    As someone who has travelled to Europe and South America in recent years, I am embarassed to be an American.

    I think if airline travel were less expensive, this poll would be going in another direction.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2013 @ 6:18am

      Re:

      I would say two things to you:

      1) If you're traveling abroad then it's up to you to show the good things that the people, not the government do, and

      2) If you're really embarrassed then just stay abroad, or, better yet, use that feeling to do something about it when you get home.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2013 @ 5:00am

    "The Founding Fathers Could Not Believe That Only 71% Of Americans Disappointed At The Way The Nation Has Turned Out."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    YetAnotherAnon, 15 Jul 2013 @ 5:06am

    "A republic if you can keep it", Ben Franklin

    It has always been the responsibility of the voting public to safeguard themselves. Manifestly we have failed ourselves. Data mining makes demographic analysis and gaming the opinion of the voter an easy task. Conning the US public into abandoning public funding of elections in favor of unlimited commercial "speech" coupled with GIS driven gerrymandering makes the American voter almost irrelevant. In the "Land of the Free and Home of the Brave", we are neither anymore.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2013 @ 5:22am

    I'm amazed it's not higher.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    textibule (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 5:30am

    Sigh

    I left the US for Europe 20 years ago. At that time I was pissed and disappointed by America's big heavy boots, stomping and dissing any non-american entity that crossed its radar. But somehow, in the same tone as some of the posters here, I was a little bit proud to be American.

    Now, forget it. The US is seen as the Axis of Evil in much of the (rest of the) world that I love to visit. I can't disagree. I'm ashamed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 5:33am

    Yes, people despise the Government. Question is: does the Government care? Will this all-time low trust translate into changes towards rebuilding the Constitutional rights?

    I don't think so. Not without some uprising from the Americans who are blissfully watching their favorite shows...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Davey, 15 Jul 2013 @ 9:18am

      Re:

      They sit on their fat asses and despise the government while worrying about whether there will still be Twinkies. Why would the government care?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 3:48pm

        Re: Re:

        What would you have us do? We've voted for "change" (and we got the same dame thing), we've protested by the thousands in cities all over the nation. We've voiced our opinions to our representatives. We've made vary vocal to the world that we are displeased. There's only one option that we haven't started to explore.

        Are you seriously advocating violence?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Haywood (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 5:43am

    exactly

    I doubt they really care what we think. It is less trouble to control passive masses, but I'm pretty sure despite the alleged readiness of some, that resistance is futile.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 5:45am

    Are you willing to admit to a stranger on the phone your not proud to be an american?
    Seriously?

    Cause its not like if you disagree with that idea they will call you a terrorist lover.... er wait.
    Or if you disagree with that idea they will call you unpatriotic... er wait.

    Might be worth rethinking those numbers after you remember the jingoistic xenophobic love it or leave it attitude that is constantly on display.

    Its now basically a crime to disagree with the powers that be, and you think people will give you real answers over the phone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      yaga (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 6:20am

      Re:

      Obviously at least 15% of the respondents said they weren't proud to be an American.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 9:10am

      Re:

      Are you willing to admit to a stranger on the phone your not proud to be an american?


      If that is the truth, why not? Who cares what some stranger on the phone thinks?

      (I would never answer that question, but only because I never agree to take part in telephone surveys of any sort.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    theDude, 15 Jul 2013 @ 6:27am

    Just Crazy

    The founders(mostly)didnt even think the federal government should have a standing army. Im sure they would be appaled at the military industrial complex that runs the country today. In many ways modern America is clearly the opposite of what those guys wanted.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 11:37am

      Re: Just Crazy

      The founders(mostly)didnt even think the federal government should have a standing army.


      That's right. Further, the reasons they thought a standing army was bad have proven accurate.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Shon Gale, 15 Jul 2013 @ 7:16am

    So what? The same idiot voters will vote all the same idiot politicians back in office. Nothing changes. We still get ripped off for our 401K's, we still get stock market crashes every 10 years. We still get mass unemployment because we don't make our primary goods. So what we're angry? I don't trust us to do a thing about it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    jupiterkansas (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 7:26am

    Like the rest of the country, I'm sure the founding fathers would be so dazzled by modern technology and diverting toys that they wouldn't give a hoot about the government as long as cheap imports keep coming in from China.

    That's after they finish reading all the books about themselves and visiting all their statues.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Antoinette Marie, 15 Jul 2013 @ 7:34am

    Um. They'd probably be all WTF and worship us as gods. We have cars, telecommunications, plentiful food, vaccines, hospitals, tiny computers that can fit in our pockets. We've explored the moon, the bottom of the ocean, both of the poles. We built a nuclear bomb, well many of them. We have a completely different world now. Our country is global and it is not an agrarian society anymore. They *knew* society would change and evolve, thus why they put an amendment process in there in the first place because the Enlightenment recognized the capability of the human mind to continually progress and change. I think it is safe to say they would not be 'disappointed'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      jupiterkansas (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 8:24am

      Re:

      They would also be stunned that we were the dominate power in the world, and perhaps not so surprised that Europe nearly destroyed itself twice.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Internet Zen Master (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 8:52am

        Re: Re:

        "were the dominate power in the world?"

        Last I checked America can still nuke the whole goddamn planet three times over and still have a few warheads left to play with. That sounds like the dominate power in the world to me (at least in the military sense).

        And sadly, I have to agree with you on the second part. They wouldn't be surprised to learn that Europe nearly destroyed itself in what was pretty much a pair of back-to-back wars. The Founding Fathers did have to deal with Napoleon after all...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Internet Zen Master (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 8:27am

    So does the disappointment come before

    or after they get over the shocking fact that a) Slavery is now illegal, and b) there is a black man (Obama) in the White House and running the country?

    Aside from that, yeah, I figure that the founding fathers would be rather displeased with how our government's currently acting.

    That said, do we really need to keep going back to the "Founding Fathers" all the time and treat them like some sort of modern demi-gods every time we've got some major government scandal that should be (but currently is not) rocking this nation to its very core?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    dennis deems (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 8:39am

    The thing about surveys

    Question design is crucial. These questions are too vague to yield meaningful analysis. What exactly is meant by "the way the United States has turned out"? Are we to think of social ills such as slavery and child labor? Are we to consider class-stratification and an individual's power to choose their profession? Availability of education? health care? Every respondent will have his or her own understanding of what we are being asked to compare, and what the founding fathers' collective attitudes would be to these issues.

    TLDR: "How would [dead person] have felt about [x]" is a topic for Steve Allen and his celebrity guests to discuss, not a data point from which social or political scientists may glean anything at all useful.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2013 @ 11:12am

    If the infamous dictators of history such as Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were President, it would pretty much be the same. The only things missing are the government sponsored massacres with body counts in the millions, nationwide death camps, absolute lack of free speech, disarmed citizens everywhere, and rock-bottom standards of living; we are dangerously close to all of the above.

    On the other hand, if the Founding Fathers lived among us, they'd also critique the way the government is run and find themselves on watchlists, if not outright jailed/killed under very loose interpretations of secret laws.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2013 @ 11:50am

    I would be much more optimistic about America's potential 'turn-around', if our political system was more than a two-party system.

    We no longer have anybody willing to represent the people in office, except for maybe Ron Wyden. Only one or two politicians representing the people's wishes, isn't even close to causing a 'turn-around' in America.

    I would vote for someone different, but I can't because only nominees who can raise multi-million dollar election campaigns are allowed to be put on the voting ballot.

    The only way to raise that kind of money is to get $1 contributions from millions of 'average' folks, or a few large contributions from multi-million dollar corporations.

    As such, the downward spiral of American Politics shall continue, until we have an 'Egyptian Uprising' movement and demand representation for the people.

    We already did with the Occupy Wallstreet movement. Most of the people in that movement were from the younger generation of American.

    Pretty soon I can see a future Occupy Uprising succeeding, once the new younger generation becomes the majority, instead of the minority.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2013 @ 1:12pm

    Only 71%? I'm surprised it's not more.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Micah, 15 Jul 2013 @ 9:34pm

    We have faltered, but we don't have to fall.

    We were told "A state is nothing more than a reflection of its citizens; the more decent the citizens, the more decent the state."

    We just have to "ante up and kick in". It just starts with being responsible with ourselves and our own. I recommend the article/interactive timeline Freedom in America: Insights from the Founders and other great Americans in "41 Things Every American Should Know."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rikuo (profile), 26 Aug 2013 @ 4:49pm

    strikethrough

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Adam, 7 Dec 2013 @ 7:42pm

    I would go as far as to say that the Founding Fathers would inspire another revolutionary war. The american government has became the very thing that the founding fathers fought against back then, why would they back down if they were here today?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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